One of the hardest things that any succesful band will at one point have to do is try to follow up their hit album. How does somebody eclipse an Appetite for Destruction or a Back in Black? Well there is really two main avenues most bands, or single artists, take. They either copy most of the material from their blockbuster album, and you know just change the song titles. This could prove to alienate your fan base, as the sequel is hardly ever as good as the original. The second option is to alternate their sound drastically so that it sounds nothing like their previous album. This somehow also can anger a majority of your base. So what can an artist do?
New Jersey is the solution to this basic question. After the massive selling, mega hit spawning juggernaut that was Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi came to release the follow up, and they sort of combined the two main avenues mentioned above. New Jersey has a similar sound to its predeccasor, but at the same time it’s a more evolved version. The songs are longer, the lyrics are better and the music is still fun, but this time also a bit complex. This album went on to produce five billboard 100 top 10 hits.
‘Lay Your Hands on Me’, ‘Bad Medicine’ and ‘Born to be my Baby’ start of the album pretty much from were it’s predeccasor left off. Big choruses, loud guitars and lyrics that are fueled by love, break-up and relationships. ‘Bad Medicine’ is pretty much the direct follow-up to ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’, as Jon sings about how his ‘date’ is nothing but ‘Bad Medicine’, but the song is so fun, and has such a good solo and chorus that it easily is as good as its inspiration, if not better.
‘Living in Sin’ is a beautiful song about cohabitation. The rhythm guitar takes the lead hear, and the keyboards are also pretty prominant. The lyrics are emotional, direct and are delivered with a brilliant intensity that is not easy to find in most of these types of songs. ‘Wild is the Wind’ is another good ballad, with a heavy use of an acoustic guitar. It starts quietly but builds up intensity when it reaches the chours. ‘I’ll be There for You’ is the last main ballad, and it’s a song that doesn’t really need any introduction. It would inspire many duplicates in the years to come, sadly from the same band.
‘Blood on Blood’ and ‘Homebound Train’ come back to back, and they are two long but great songs. The former is about everlasting friendship and is motivated by the movie Stand by Me. Sambora shines here with a good solo, and some great riffs. The latter is another guitar track, a bluesy number with some of Sambora most prominet, if often overlooked, work. The lyrics are pretty simple, almost Zeppelin or Stones inspired, but they work fairly well.
‘Love for Sale’ closes the number on a fairly high note, with an accoustic number than never takes itself seriously. The lyrics are fun and clever, and it’s just a fun song to listen to.
New Jersey is a continuation of something that’s been already done. Nothing is pushed and lives aren’t changed, and THANK GOD ALL MIGHTY FOR THAT! Why mess with a formula that worked so well the first time, instead of trying to move into a new direction, why not simply tweak the original formula and try to achieve even better results? And that’s exactly what Bon Jovi did here; they improved on something that was already good, making it great in return.